“That was fairly direct certainly,” said Nick. “And he?”
“He asked me to dine,” said Max.
Nick laughed. “And you didn’t accept?”
“Would you have accepted?” Max turned on him almost savagely.
“I think I should,” said Nick. “There’s nothing like studying the enemy from close quarters. But go ahead! Tell me more! When do you expect her people back?”
“Possibly in a fortnight. They have been gone that time already—rather more. And they expected to make a month of it.”
Nick nodded. “We ought to be able to hold the fort for that time. What did your friend Sir Kersley think?”
Max lifted one eyebrow. “What did he say to you about it?”
Nick struck a match for his cigarette with considerable dexterity. “About Violet—practically nothing. About her mother—a good deal.”
“I wonder why.” Max spoke somewhat curtly.
Nick lighted his cigarette with a whimsical expression. “You don’t seem to have noticed what an excellent confidant I make,” he said.
“Ah, I know you are safe.” There was conviction in Max’s tone. “But Kersley is such a reserved chap. And—that ancient affair ruined his life.”
“I gathered that,” said Nick. “As a matter of fact, I knew a little of the affair before we met. He had been a doctor in my old regiment. It was five years after he retired that I joined; but most of the fellows knew the story. It reached me one way or another. I was deuced sorry for him when I heard the truth. Most people out there were of the opinion that he had treated her badly—was, in fact, to a very great measure responsible for the tragedy.”
“That of course was not so,” said Max deliberately. “She was responsible from first to last. She knew of the taint in her veins. He did not—till he detected it.”
“Rather hard on her!” remarked Nick.
“Would you have married her?” The green eyes fixed him with sudden stern intentness.
Nick blinked rapidly for a few seconds. “I daren’t answer that question,” he said at length. “You see, I’m not a doctor.”
Max rose abruptly. “Are doctors the only beings whoever think of the next generation?” he asked bitterly.
“There is a saying,” said Nick, “that ‘Love conquers all things.’”
“Pshaw!” said Max. “It never conquered heredity.”
“I withdraw the proposition,” said Nick. “But, I say, Wyndham!” He paused.
“Well?” Max swung round aggressively with hands in his pockets.
“Suppose the woman you loved developed that disease—would you throw her over?” Nick spoke tentatively.
Max flung back his head and stared at the ceiling. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I want to know what you are made of,” replied Nick with simplicity.
Max turned and slowly walked to the window. “Yes,” he said, with his back turned, “I should.”